It was a damp day in Oakland for the Raiders matchup with the division rival Denver Broncos. And for the Raiders, the first half was as messy as the field.
They got things started off with a bang when, after stopping the Broncos with a three and out, it took the Raiders one play to score a touchdown. But thanks to two turnovers in the first quarter on an interception and a fumble, the Broncos scored two touchdowns in just over two minutes.
The Raiders were able to score again and went into halftime with the score tied at 17 all. The score remained close with neither team able to score a touchdown in the 3rd quarter. It wasn't until the fourth quarter that the Raiders were able to score two touchdowns to put the game away.
The Raiders looked like two different teams in the first and second half. It is no coincidence that the rain was falling off and on throughout the first half and stopped prior to the second half. The renewed energy of the team was also thanks to a riot act handed down by Tom Cable at halftime.
In the end most Raider players were able to make up for any laxed play in the first half and some players were on from the first snap of the ball.
He led the team with 3 tackles for loss and 5 solo tackles. His first tackle for loss came on the Broncos' third possession just after the Raiders' first turnover. On the first play, he shot in from his safety spot to stuff Denver runningback Knowshon Moreno behind the line. To make matters worse for the Broncos, Moreno got angry as he couldn't free himself from Branch's grasp and pulled down on his facemask to tack another 15 yards onto the 2 yards he had already lost.
Tyvon's next tackle was also a tackle for loss. Moreno was caught in the backfield again and tried to cut back the opposite direction. But Branch was there to meet him for a loss of one yard. He ended the Broncos next drive when he teamed up to stuff Tim Tebow on a wildcat quarterback keeper for one yard. That was all before halftime.
His next play came on special teams when he laid a vicious block on a punt return to allow Nick Miller to take it back 22 yards and into Denver territory. Tack on a facemask penalty and the Raiders set up at the Denver 24 yard line.
A bit later, a penalty and a big pass play had the Broncos set up at the Raiders' 22 yard line and looking to score. Then on the next play, Branch was in the backfield again for another tackle for loss of three yards. He then ended the threat when he stopped Tebow short of the first down on a third down scramble. At that time, the score was tied at 20. The Raiders would pull away after that.
Another 100 yard rushing game (119). This time his numbers put him over 1100 on the season (1112). Before this game began, he needed 7 yards to reach 1000 and I predicted, with that poor Denver defense, he would get that on his first carry. He got 8 yards on his very first carry of the game to give him 1001 yards. He also had 39 yards receiving to give him close to 500 yards receiving on the season. He miraculously didn't score any touchdowns in this game but he set the Raiders up for many of their scores on the day.
He gaffed early on when he fumbled on a lateral attempt. But on the next Raider drive, he sought to attone for that mistake when he had a 19 yard run and a 36 yard run to the 2 yard line. The Raiders would score a touchdown two plays later to tie it up at 14 apiece.
Late in the 4th quarter, he made a great adjustment on a Campbell throw in the flat that he took 21 yards to the one yard line. The Raiders would punch it in on the next play to go up 39-23. His final play was taking a pitch for 8 yards and a first down to end the game. He averaged 6 yards a carry for the day.
How many superlatives are there left to be used to describe this guy? What a tremendous player he is. He got the Raiders on the board in true Jacoby Ford fashion. On the Raiders very first play on offense, he took a reverse end around 71 yards to the house. It is truly amazing watching him just fly by the defense. We all knew he had speed when he was drafted, but this guy has football speed. He is near impossible to catch, hard to get a hand on, and harder to tackle. And oh yeah, he blocks well too.
He laid a key block to help Darren McFadden break off a 36 yard run to the Broncos two yard line. He might have had a couple more catches in the first half but Campbell was off target on the throws.
The third quarter brought some better play by the offense and Ford got some catches. His best catch went for 25 yards and led to a field goal to put the Raiders up 23-20. Later he had a 15 yard catch that eventually led to the Raiders' final touchdown. He has quickly become the surest hands on the team. The speed is just a bonus. Or is he the fastest, and the hands are a bonus? Whichever.
He led the Raiders in combined tackles (8) and added 1.5 sacks as well. He almost had another sack early in the game when he brushed off his man to come after Tebow in the backfield. Tebow slipped his initial grasp but Shaughnessy kept coming and tackled him right at the line for no gain. He was giving Tebow fits all game long. Later, in the 2nd quarter, he tackled Tebow after a scramble short of the first down on third down to force a punt. Then in the third quarter, he tracked him down again on a scramble that was stopped short of the first down on third down. His solo sack was on the Broncos' final offensive play of the game. He also had several run stuffs for little or no gain. Aside from his tackles and sacks, he also led the Raiders in quarterback hits (2). When Tebow kneeled to pray after the game he probably said "Lord, please let me get traded so I don't have to face Matt Shaughnessy twice a year. Oh, and so I can get the heck out of Denver."
This defense is clearly a lot better with him in it. With him out injured last week, they looked out of sorts and Ricky Brown was not the answer at middle linebacker. McClain was 2nd on the team in tackles with 7 combined. But most importantly, he was a Bronco drive killer in this game. He tried to set the tone early when he almost single handedly stopped the Broncos on their first possession. He burst into the backfield on a wildcat direct snap to Knowshon Moreno and stopped him for a loss of one. Then on the very next play, he tipped the Tebow pass at the line for an incompletion and a punt. Later in the half, he tackled Tebow for one yard on a wildcat keeper to end a drive. Two drives later, he killed another one when he teamed up to stop Tebow on another keeper short of the first down.
On the Broncos first possession of the third quarter, he would yet again, almost single handedly end the drive. The Broncos had the ball on the 1 yard line after a nice punt, a penalty and a tackle for loss. On 2nd down, with the ball at the one yard line, he tackled the runner at 4 yards and on third down he stuffed the runner at the line for no gain to force a punt from their own endzone. The great field position resulted in a feild goal to take the lead back 20-17. He would have one more run stuff tackle for no gain to start a three and out by the Broncos in the 4th quarter.
It can't be understated how important that play was when Groves shot into the Broncos backfield to tackle the runner for a safety. At the time, the Raiders were ahead by one score at 30-23. The safety tore the heart out of the Broncos. Or as Tom Cable would say: "step on their necks". The Raiders would get a big return on the ensuing kick with a late hit penalty on top of it. Then they would take the short field and score a touchdown to end it. That wasn't Groves' only play of the game though. He had another tackle for loss with the Broncos lined up at their own three yard line earlier in the game. With the Broncos' backs against the endzone, they just couldn't keep Groves out of the backfield. He had another tackle on a short catch for one yard. In all, Groves had three tackles for a total of -4 yards and a safety.
He kicked three field goals in this game from 33, 49, and 35. But he also was forced into punting duties when Shane Lechler went out with a hamstring strain in his punting leg. Seabass would punt just once, and while it wasn't a great punt, the mere fact that it was a high, wobbly punt made it hard to field. The returner muffed it and the Raiders recovered to get the ball back. And he did all of this on a muddly field, slipping just once on a kickoff that still went a good distance.
He gave up zero catches and even came up to stop Tebow on a scramble attempt on 3rd down that went for just a yard. Not much more that needs to be said about that.
He had 88 yards total offense in this game, and 73 of them came on one play. It was a well designed play that was executed perfectly. And one that fullbacks often make. But Reece is not your average fullback. Campbell dropped back as if he it was a 7 step drop and the receivers all ran routes downfield. Then Reece looked like he was setting up to pass block but instead he squirted out and turned around. Campbell turned and dropped it off to him and there was a good 20 yards of open field in front of him. He quickly got a full head of steam, ran around the first tackler in the open field and raced 71 yards to paydirt. On top of that, he had is regular blocking duties to help McFadden get his 119 yards rushing.
Another great game for the oft criticized center. He played another mistake free game all while the Raiders coaches utilized his athletic ability to block downfield on long runs. He was the primary blocker on the big 71 yard end around by Jacoby Ford to get the Raiders day started off right. Then on the Raiders second touchdown drive, he laid a key block to help spring Darren McFadden on a 19 yard run on the first play of the possession.
He deserves some credit for the speech he gave at halftime that woke the Raiders up and helped them come out and put the game away in the second half. He would be a Baller outright except he also shoulders some of the blame for the team coming out and playing uninspired football in the first place. After losing to the Jaguars last week, there is no reason why that game should not have been all the motivation this team needed to come out and roll over the Broncos from the beginning. The players said that his speech at halftime was the more firey they have ever seen him. Hopefully his words will resonate and carry into the game next week against the Colts.
He didn't have a lot of yards with McFadden getting the bulk of the carries. Bush was asked to carry the ball in short yardage and goal line situations. He finished off two drives with long McFadden runs that stopped at the 2 yard line and 1 yard line. The Broncos knew what was coming and they still couldn't stop it.
Just the other day, someone said to me that Stanford Routt should be in the Pro Bowl because his receivers have the lowest completion percentage in the NFL. That is the perfect example of a completely misleading statistic. And the very reason Ballers & Busters exists. Some things are just impossible to quantify based on statistics. Nnamdi Asomugha is a perfect example. He has almost no statistics and yet, that is the very reason he is the best. But, this isn't about Nnamdi, this is about Routt.
Routt's bad day started after the Broncos got the ball in Raider territory after a fumble. The 2nd play of the possession, Tebow dropped back and threw a ball that looked to be up for grabs. The pass was lofted high enough that Routt was able to catch up to the receiver. Then he leapt in the air only to watch the ball go right between in hands without so much and touching it. Brandon Lloyd dove and pulled it in uncontested. It was initially ruled incomplete but upon further review was ruled a touchdown. While you might be able to argue whether it was really caught inbounds, there is no way to argue that Routt blew a golden opportunity to at very least knock down the rainbow pass. And he should have intercepted it. From turnover to touchdown.
Later, in the 3rd quarter, he was called for pass interference on first down when he didn't turn around to look for the ball on a sideline route. The penalty went for 24 yards. Two plays later he gave up a 20 yard catch that put the ball at the Raiders' 22 yard line. It would lead to a game tying field goal. Overall, he was on the hook for 82 yards and 10 points.
When Barnes trotted onto the field and reported eligible for the first time in this game, I turned to Blitz Chick who was sitting two seats down from me in the press box and said "Ope, Khalif is in; it's time for the obligatory false start penalty." At which point, Barnes promptly proved me right. When you can predict a player's bonehead play that easily, then he has got to be a Buster. Many people have suggested he be named a Buster before for his predictible false start penalties. I guess I was waiting for him to do it so often you could set your watch to it.
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